Psoriasis is an uncomfortable skin condition that affects an estimated 450,000 Australians. But, other than knowing that psoriasis can appear as red, itchy patches on the skin’s surface, many people still don’t know what it is or how it can be treated.
Starts at 60 spoke to dermatologist Saxon Smith to find out more about the debilitating condition and what you can do to manage it.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes patches of flaky, dry skin that can resemble a rash. In some cases, the skin can even take on a silvery-white colour. It occurs when skin cells are replaced more quickly than usual.
And unlike other disorders that we can hide or mask, psoriasis tends to be noticeable. Patches normally appear on the scalp, elbows and knees, but can occur anywhere on the body, Smith explains.
There are different kinds of psoriasis and the severity of the condition varies from person to person. However, the most common symptoms of psoriasis include red, raised or inflamed patches of skin, itchiness, dry skin that may crack and bleed, and in some cases, painful, swollen joints.
Psoriasis can even raise your risk for other conditions, Smith explains, adding, “About 30 to 40 per cent of people with psoriasis develop this inflammatory arthritis called psoriatic arthritis.”
Psoriasis can also pose problems for your heart. Studies have found that psoriasis is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure. People living with the condition also have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but experts believe that it’s related to the body’s immune system. Genetics and environmental factors also play a role.
And no, you can’t catch it! There’s a common misconception that psoriasis is contagious, but according to Smith, that’s not the case.
“[People] don’t understand that this is an autoimmune disease,” he says. “It’s generated by genetics, it’s not something that’s contagious.”
There are certain triggers that can cause psoriasis to flare up or worsen, including:
While there isn’t yet a cure for psoriasis, there are various ways to manage the condition. However, it’s always important to speak with your doctor before testing treatments on yourself. Treatment options include:
Although you might be tempted to pick or itch at your sores, it’s vital that you try to avoid doing so, as it will actually make your condition worse.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.
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